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Part 10: Review: Berthold Hoeckner on "Lohengrin" 8/94

PostPosted: Mon Apr 22, 2013 1:05 pm
by alberich00
28. BH: WAGNER EQUATES ELSA’S ASKING THE FORBIDDEN QUESTION, HER ‘WHENCE?’, WITH THE MUTUAL NEED OF MUSIC AND DRAMA FOR UNION, SINCE ABSOLUTE MUSIC DEMANDS THE QUESTION, WHY?, WHICH CAN ONLY BE OFFERED BY THE DRAMA WHICH MOTIVATES THIS MUSIC. THE DRAMA STILLS THE NEED FOR THE QUESTION, WHY?


[BH] “[P. 270] Part 3: Elsa Screams

[BH] In his 1860 essay ‘Zukunftsmusik, which is usually cited for its idea of the ‘endless melody,’ but whose central aesthetic problem is, again, the difference between symphonic and dramatic music, Wagner noted about ‘Lohengrin’:

[#] ‘The whole interest of ‘Lohengrin’ consists in an inner process within Elsa’s heart, involving every secret of the soul: understanding a spell of wondrously happy magic, which fills her whole surrounding with the most persuasive sense of truth, depends solely on her refraining from the question as to his ‘Whence?’. Like a scream from the innermost need of woman’s heart, this question struggles loose – and the spell has vanished. You may guess how singularly this tragic “Whence?” concurs with that aforementioned theoretical “Why?” ‘

[BH] [P. 271] What was Wagner’s ‘Why’? For Wagner, a symphony’s status is that of ‘undetermined’ music, which forces the listener to inquire about its cause: Why? Music cannot answer this question completely out of itself. As pure effect, absolute music is defective, its autonomy dismantled. The response to the listener’s (interrogating) response is, of course, drama:

‘Drama, at the moment of its actual scenic representation, instantly arouses in the spectator such an intimate participation in an action borrowed faithfully from life itself, at least in its possibilities, that sympathetic human feeling already passes into that ecstatic state where it forgets the fateful question Why? And willingly yields itself, in utmost excitation, to the guidance of those new laws whereby music makes itself so wondrously intelligible and – in a profound sense – supplies at the same time the only fitting answer to that Why?’ [‘Zukunftsmusik, VII, 112 (III, 320; translation modified)]”

[PH] In the passage above Hoeckner has delineated Wagner’s concept that myth and music are kin because both plunge us, the audience, into a dream-like state in which an unconscious, involuntary logic, which Wagner describes as clairvoyance, replaces the conscious reasoning of our waking consciousness. In fact, Wagner stated that the more drama approaches myth, the more musical it becomes, thereby gradually becoming unconscious instead of conscious. Readers of my 8/93 paper will note that I distinguished the relationship of Lohengrin with Elsa, from that of Frederick with Ortrud, on the basis that the first couple live in a dream state, identified with religion and art, the second in a waking, objective state, identified with science.


29. BH: WHY DOES ELSA ASK THE FORBIDDEN QUESTION IF IT IS HER DREAM AND THE FOLK’S LONGING WHICH CREATE LOHENGRIN?

[#] [BH] [P. 272] "Why didn’t Elsa forget to ask her Whence? Why didn’t she ‘yield’ to the ‘laws’ of drama? The answers to these questions hinge on her changing perception of Lohengrin.
Wagner’s words are suggestive. When Elsa enters the stage for the first time, she is still in that dreamlike state where her vision was – aurally – transfigured: she sees Lohengrin as much as she hears him. In this state of ‘ecstasy’ it would not occur to her to ask, because it is she who – according to the purely human essence of love – created Lohengrin ‘involuntarily’ through the power of her fancy, as the other side of her own being. However, Elsa also has a ‘co-creative’ audience, which, initially sceptical, is gradually transformed by the ‘legendary tone’ of her voice. Reliving her dream through its narration, she falls back into this ‘ecstasy’ that silences the questions of the curious crowd by making them ultimately sing back what she has sung. (…) As a primeval form of musical narration, refrain and ballade are the collectivizing agents that collapse the boundary [P. 273] between singing and listening, performer and audience, as well as creation and reception:

‘In particular, this legendary colouring [through a ballade or refrain], in which a purely human event is represented, has the real advantage of greatly facilitating the poet’s task, assigned to him above, to satisfy and thus prevent the question “Why?” Just as through the characteristic scene, so also through the legendary tone, the mind is immediately placed in that dreamlike state wherein it presently shall come to full clairvoyance, and thus perceive a new coherence in the world’s phenomena; a coherence it could not detect with the commonly waking eye, wherefore the mind always asks Why?, as if to conquer its abashedness in light of the incomprehensible of the world that will now become so clear and intelligible. How music shall fully exercise this magic of clairvoyance, you now will easily understand.’ [“Zukunftsmusik, VII, 121 (III, 3291;
translation modified]”

[PH] In the following passage from my 8/93 paper I also noted that both Elsa and the Folk, the people of Brabant, through their longing, effectively create Lohengrin:


[PHn]
[PH: IT IS ELSA’S AND THE FOLK’S DESIRE FOR WAHN (THE CONSOLATION OF SELF-DECEPTION, AND FEAR OF TRUTH), WHICH CREATES LOHENGRIN]

[P. 14] “If this [PH: the fact that the source of Lohengrin’s inspiration is our hell, our inability to accept out true nature and natural limits, and not heaven] were so, and the Folk instinctively felt what danger they themselves would face in bringing this knowledge to consciousness, wouldn’t they behave exactly as they do in LOHENGRIN, banishing and censoring all who bring their false beliefs into doubt? Why, it seems that even supposing Lohengrin were a fraud, the Folk prefer to be deceived:

LOHENGRIN Act 2 Scene 5

'Men, Women, Pages, and the King: What secret must the hero [P. 15] guard? If to tell it brings him peril, he must truly keep it! We’ll protect the worthy knight from danger; through his deed his noble rank was made clear!'

Their desire to preserve Elsa’s innocence from Frederick’s allegedly false accusation was so strong, and Elsa’s need for redemption from her NOTH so intensely felt, that their very longing for Lohengrin seemed to have brought him into being, a dream become reality. But then, the Folk can’t afford to doubt him. Their whole conception of life’s meaning seems dependent on accepting the consolation Lohengrin offers. Accordingly, they say his deed proves his noble rank; i.e., their wish for a proposition to be true, makes it true!”

[PH] I also noted that far from being skeptical, the Folk wholly embrace Lohengrin’s wonder, assume he has come from god, and unquestioningly concur with his demand that they have unquestioning faith in him and not question him about his name or origin. They are the community of the faithful. Since they all assume that Lohengrin was Godsent, what precisely is he hiding from them in insisting he not tell them his true name, Lohengrin, or of his origin in the Grail realm?:


[PHw]
[PH: SINCE EVERYONE ASSUMED THAT LOHENGRIN HAS BEEN SENT TO THEM BY GOD, WHY IS THERE A PROHIBITION ON EXPOSING HIS TRUE NAME AND ORIGIN?]

[P. 19] “Now day breaks into their love-night. Lohengrin rejected Elsa’s offer, and must publicly confess his name and origin. Did Lohengrin reject Elsa’s unique offer because he was unable to admit he himself needs redemption through her? Is he in need of redemption? He’s certainly involved in a contradiction which makes him vulnerable. We just heard him tell Elsa that he came not from hell, but from bliss. Shortly he’ll tell the King and Folk 'Mark well, if I need be afraid of the daylight … ' (LOH Act 3 Sc 3). If these boasts were true, would a prohibition on knowledge of his origin be necessary, and would he have to leave when his secret is exposed to daylight? Also, how can we sustain our other thesis that his origin is too spiritual for human understanding, since he’ll soon reveal his identity in words in a public forum? Surely his origin isn’t God or heaven: since everyone presumes Lohengrin was sent by God from heaven, what more is there to reveal? His public confession holds the answer … .”

[PH] Hoeckner in 8/94 drew attention to a distinction between waking, rational consciousness, and the dream-realm of the unconscious which Elsa and Lohengrin share, which is very similar to the distinction I drew in my 8/93 paper:


30. BH: ELSA AND THE FOLK SHE INFLUENCES BLIND THEIR WAKING EYE TO PREPARE FOR THE DREAM-HERO LOHENGRIN

[#] [BH] [P. 274] “In Elsa’s trial such a musico-poetic miracle has a double effect: on the one hand, her refrain lulls the people into the sympathetic state that makes them forget to ask why; on the other hand, shutting their waking eyes prepares them to see Lohengrin enter into the world. Similarly Senta – to quote Wagner’s stage direction from ‘The Flying Dutchman’ – ‘sinks into a kind of magnetic slumber’ and ‘appears to be dreaming the very dream’ that Eric is relating to her and that her ballade had anticipated. Both Senta’s ballade and Elsa’s narrated dream put a frame of fiction around the desired object before it appears in reality.”


[PHh]
[PH: WAGNER IDENTIFIES LOHENGRIN WITH DREAMING AND FEELING, AND IDENTIFIES FREDERICK, IN HIS UNION WITH ORTRUD, WITH WAKING, RATIONAL THOUGHT]

[P. 6] “Perhaps Elsa prefers her ‘dream-lover’ Lohengrin over her potential ‘waking’ love Frederick, because Lohengrin perjures himself to keep up the pretense of her innocence. Lohengrin seems to ‘feel’ her innocence, rather than demanding, like Frederick, that he must ‘think’ it.

(…)

[P. 9] Does not this distinction, of ‘consciousness’ from ‘unconsciousness’, seem to be incarnate in the contrast between Frederick as potential ‘waking’ suitor to Elsa (but actual suitor to Ortrud) and Lohengrin as Elsa’s preferred ‘dream-lover’? Is it possible that Ortrud and Elsa are identical, but distinguished by Frederick’s waking consciousness and Lohengrin’s dreamlike unconsciousness?

(…)

Lohengrin … seems to come from a realm which abhors consciousness, a dream realm. While Frederick has objective relations with mother nature, Lohengrin seems [P. 10] to have a subjective, emotional union with her, one which flatters the folk but dishonors Frederick. While Frederick holds mother nature’s harsh truths in view, and thus accuses Elsa of fratricide, Lohengrin lives only to redeem the world (Elsa) from her harsh truths. From what threat, then, does Lohengrin offer Elsa, and ourselves, redemption? Why, Ortrud’s and Frederick’s waking knowledge of reality, what else! “


[PHn]
[PH: ELSA’S AND THE FOLK’S DESIRE FOR THE CONSOLATION OF SELF-DECEPTION, OR WAHN, GIVES BIRTH TO LOHENGRIN]

[P. 14] “If this [PH: the fact that the source of Lohengrin’s inspiration is our hell, our inability to accept out true nature and natural limits, and not heaven] were so, and the Folk instinctively felt what danger they themselves would face in bringing this knowledge to consciousness, wouldn’t they behave exactly as they do in LOHENGRIN, banishing and censoring all who bring their false beliefs into doubt? Why, it seems that even supposing Lohengrin were a fraud, the Folk prefer to be deceived:

LOHENGRIN Act 2 Scene 5

'Men, Women, Pages, and the King: What secret must the hero [P. 15] guard? If to tell it brings him peril, he must truly keep it! We’ll protect the worthy knight from danger; through his deed his noble rank was made clear!'

Their desire to preserve Elsa’s innocence from Frederick’s allegedly false accusation was so strong, and Elsa’s need for redemption from her NOTH so intensely felt, that their very longing for Lohengrin seemed to have brought him into being, a dream become reality. But then, the Folk can’t afford to doubt him. Their whole conception of life’s meaning seems dependent on accepting the consolation Lohengrin offers. Accordingly, they say his deed proves his noble rank; i.e., their wish for a proposition to be true, makes it true!”

[PH] And here, below, I stated outright that ultimately the reason for Lohengrin’s prohibition on revealing his true name and origin is that this would expose religious faith for what it is, a fear of confronting the truth, that religious belief is a human invention and not a product of divine revelation:


[PHhh]
[PH: LOHENGRIN WILL BE SINNING IF HE EXPOSES THE VERY WAHN, OR SELF-DECEPTION, HE PERPETUATES, THEREBY DESTROYING THE FOLK’S DREAM OF CONSOLATION]

"Lohengrin’s third sin is this: assuming he’s committed to redeeming our unwitting hypocrisy from the knowledge which might expose it, that he feels bound to console us with illusion (Wahn) for the knowledge (NOTH) Eve gave Adam, is it not an unforgivable sin to expose the very hypocrisy he perpetuates? Lohengrin and his breed (other Grail knights) had made us so emotionally dependent upon this self-deception (Wahn) for our happiness, that to expose the truth (NOTH) might bring us unbearable pain (NOTH), or open in us an irredeemable, ‘unhealing’ wound (NOTH)."

[PH] In Hoeckner’s following remarks he notes that Wagner in “A Communication to My Friends” identified himself with Lohengrin, understood as a metaphor for the absolute artist who desperately needs redemption from this absoluteness by seeking it in a union with music (if he is an absolute dramatist) or with drama (if he is a composer of absolute music):


31. BH: WAGNER EQUATED HIMSELF WITH LOHENGRIN, IN THAT WAGNER FELT HE HAD TO WRITE THEORETICAL WORKS TO EXPLAIN HIMSELF CONCEPTUALLY TO AN AUDIENCE WHO COULDN’T GRASP HIS ART NATURALLY THROUGH SYMPATHETIC FEELING, AND THEREFORE MISUNDERSTOOD HIM. LOHENGRIN, LIKE WAGNER, SEEKS IN ELSA AN AUDIENCE WHO WILL GRASP HIM SYMPATHETICALLY THROUGH FEELING, RATHER THAN RAISING INTELLECTUAL DOUBTS.

[BH] [P. 277] “In ‘Eine Mitteilung’ Wagner identified with Lohengrin, portraying himself as the misunderstood artist who has to explain his magic through theoretical writing. However, in ‘The Music of the Future’ he seems to have completely shifted towards Elsa, the woman-music, who is both artist and audience, but is driven to question her own art:

‘I too … felt driven to this “Whence and Why” and for long it banned the magic of my art.’ [“Zukunftsmusik, 122 (III, 330; translation modified)]”


[PH] Hoeckner’s paper was surprisingly cryptic when it came to discussing the alleged villains Ortrud and Frederick. They, and their role in the plot, receive comparatively little attention. The following was Hoeckner’s most extended discussion of Ortrud:


32. BH: WAGNER: ORTRUD DOES NOT KNOW LOVE. SHE IS A REACTIONARY, AND HATES THE NEW, THE REVOLUTIONARY

[BH] [P. 278] “While Wagner envisioned Elsa as Lohengrin’s desired antithesis ‘that was contained within his own nature and that is only the complement of his specific masculine essence,’ his ‘absolute’ antithesis, of course, can only be Ortrud. As he explained to Liszt, Ortrud is a woman ‘who does not know love.’ Just as Ortrud is the ‘reactionary, clinging to the old and, therefore, hostile to everything new,’ Elsa is the woman who made him ‘a total revolutionary.’ In a simple but compelling symbolism the swan motif mixes Lohengrin’s positive magic of A major with Ortrud’s negative spell of F# minor … . As we learn at the end of the opera, it was Ortrud who turned [P. 279] Elsa’s brother Gottfried into the swan. F# minor is also the key of Ortrud’s great Act II scene, which begins by spinning out the motif of the forbidden question, then twisted into the motif of doubt. Thus, although Ortrud is Lohengrin’s ‘absolute’ antithesis, their close tonal relationship reflects their common bond by magic; and although Elsa is Lohengrin’s other half, her Ab’s distance from A is a sign for the incompatibility between her world and his.”